With the deadline to apply to study abroad during the 2018-2019 academic year quickly approaching (Nov. 6), students may have a lot of questions about studying abroad.
Take the advice of some of Hendrix’s own exchange students: Atte Ojanen from Finland, Julia Meyer from Germany, Claire Hénocq from France, Bettina Martschin from Austria, as well Beth Norman ’19, who studied in Costa Rica.
- What was the greatest challenge of studying abroad?
Atte: The bureaucratic application process was perhaps the largest obstacle.
Julia: Studying in a language that is not my mother tongue. I think that it is always a challenge to live in a new environment.
Beth: The length of time I was away from friends and family and the difficultly of my courses were probably the two biggest challenges I faced.
Claire: The greatest challenge to me was mainly leaving home, crossing an ocean and living for four months on my own.
Bettina: Leaving my family and my friends behind was definitely one of the biggest challenges.
- What has been most rewarding about studying abroad?
Atte: Meeting new people, gaining new experiences and improving my English.
Julia: It is a wonderful experience to live in another culture, meet new people and explore another country. Of course, it is also great to learn another language.
Beth S:pending time in one of the most beautiful places in the world with amazing Hendrix people, both students and professors.
Claire: I think it is always a good feeling to have worked really hard, to be done and proud of yourself. Also, since everything is so different from my home university, it is rewarding to see that I adapt pretty well.
Bettina: I really appreciate all the great friends I’ve found here at Hendrix. I’ve only been here for a few weeks now and have already met so many wonderful and helpful people that made me feel at home.
- What was most unexpected?
Atte: I felt like I came in rather prepared and haven’t faced any major culture shocks. I guess I’m still surprised by the fact how self-sufficient the campus is. Everything is oriented towards studying and you literally never have to leave the campus unless you want to.
Julia: I am mostly surprised about the little things. People love to put ice into their already cold drinks. Even the toilets are different: why is there so much water in the American toilets? I am really positively surprised by the quality of the cafeteria; I love the food here!
Beth: One of the unexpected things was how much where we were in Costa Rica felt like a home away from home.
Claire: The most unexpected thing to me at the beginning was to be with people constantly. Also, the amount of work in each class was a big surprise for me. I feel like I just study all the time!
Bettina: The humidity!
- What helped you learn the language of the country you’re studying in?
Atte: In Finland we start studying English in school by the time we are nine years old. Consumption of American entertainment has also undoubtedly helped me to grasp the language.
Julia: I am taking a 100 level English class which is improving the quality of my writing a lot. Apart from that I improve my English just by practicing, as I am talking to people every day.
Claire: I started learning English at a pretty young age and I was lucky enough to actually hear native speakers very often so that helped a lot. I also watch a lot of American TV series and movies.
Bettina: I’ve been learning English since middle school. I also read books and watch English TV shows and movies.
- How would you compare the university system back home to an American college like Hendrix?
Atte: The universities in Finland are large. The kind of tight-knit and self-contained community found in Hendrix is not present back home. Students tend to be more independent as the same kind of personalized attention or support is not available as at Hendrix. There are usually less assignments and reading to do compared to the US. The kind of microcosm where your life revolves exclusively around studying does not exist in Finland.
Julia: At home I am attending lectures with about 200 – 300 others in one classroom. The grading is also really different: there are no participation grades, quizzes, assignments or anything like that. We take one exam at the end of the semester, and that’s the grade for the class. At my home university, there is no obligation to attend any classes and professors don’t know their students – very different from Hendrix, where the professors know our names and greet us on campus. The whole atmosphere here is different in this regard: Hendrix creates a feeling of community, as it is so much smaller.
Claire: What really struck me is that students at Hendrix don’t even need to ask for help – everyone’s offering to help all the time. In France, things are really different: f you want help at school you are going to have to ask for it.
Bettina: In Austria, we don’t have this concept of a campus university. I really like the atmosphere here at Hendrix, the different student organizations and the comfort of living on campus. In Austria, we don’t have any dorms or recreational facilities belonging to the university, so everybody just goes home after classes end.
- What advice would you give to a Hendrix student considering studying in the country or region that you’re from?
Atte: Mentally prepare to live a bit more independently than in America. Try to make most of your newly found independence! You might find Finns reticent and reserved at first, but this has nothing to do with you, it’s just that small talk isn’t really a part of our culture. We will open up once drinking, and indeed, there might be more of that than back at Hendrix.
Julia: People should be aware that they have to be more independent, which also gives new freedoms. Students coming to Germany should definitely try to travel as much as they can, because it is easy and comparatively cheap to travel in the country and the surrounding countries.
Claire: Don’t be scared to ask for help. No need to stress out about the amount of homework – Hendrix trained you well! Don’t forget to make time to visit the country.
Bettina: I’d say, be open for a new culture, for new friends, travel as much as possible, try the traditional Austrian Apfelstrudel and just enjoy your time!